DOD clarifies RFID requirements

Final DOD RFID Rule

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The Defense Department has issued its final rule for use of radio frequency identification tags by its suppliers, extending how long they can use older tags and mandating the use of tags even on low-value shipments from low-volume suppliers. DOD cited efficiencies gained in the supply chain through RFID use.

DOD said in a Federal Register notice on Feb. 12 that it will allow the use of older RFID Generation 1 tags under all new contracts through March 1. The older tags can also be used on all shipments contracts awarded before May 19, 2006, the date of the RFID interim rule.

RFID Generation 1 tags are unalterable Write-Once tags. The Generation 2 tags, which DOD will move to after March 1, are Write-Once, Read-Many tags that can be written to only once, but read any number of times. Suppliers told DOD that a fast phase out of the Generation 1 tags would leave them with a large inventory of tags purchased at the department’s encouragement.

Industry asked DOD if the requirement to add tags to inexpensive items made sense when considering the cost of adding RFID systems to a vendor’s supply chain, which one company estimated at $100,000 per location. DOD said the benefits of applying RFID outweigh the costs.

DOD said the dollar value of an item is not an accurate measure of how mission-critical the item is. For example, an inexpensive part that could keep a plane from flying its mission would be considered mission-critical. DOD said its suppliers can meet its RFID mandate with the purchase of equipment that can read and write tags at a cost of about $2,000.

RFID technology is simply a faster, better way to acquire data for logistics and financial systems and will be a benefit for all items the department manages, DOD added.

DOD issued its initial RFID rule in April 2005. It required suppliers of packaged field rations such as Meals Ready to Eat, clothing and individual equipment, tools, tents, and weapons systems repair parts and components to use the tags. Last May, DOD said all suppliers of lubricants, oils, preservatives, chemicals, additives, construction and barrier materials, and medical materials would have to use RFID tags at the case and pallet level. The Pentagon plans to have all its suppliers use RFID tags by the end of this year.

The Defense Logistics Agency has equipped its nationwide network of 19 distribution centers with RFID tag readers at more than 200 portals to scan and read tag information that identifies incoming shipments.

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